France, Germany will vote for Turkey on EU bid
BERLIN, Oct 26 (AFP) - Germany and France offered a ringing endorsement for Turkey eventually joining the European Union at a bilateral summit Tuesday, as French President Jacques Chirac brushed aside doubts about Paris's backing.
Ahead of a meeting later Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said they would vote at a summit in December in Brussels for Ankara to be invited to EU membership talks.
“We are both of the opinion that on December 17 it is about a decision that should give Turkey the opportunity to negotiate with the (European) Commission with the explicit aim of Turkey joining the European Union and with no other aim,” Schroeder told reporters.
Chirac added that it was his “dearest wish” that the EU membership talks with the poor, predominantly Muslim country end in its joining the bloc.
“The membership of Turkey would be in the interest of Turkey and in the interest of the stability and democracy of the world and our region,” he said.
“This decision (in December) is based on the recommendations of the European Commission, whose favourable conclusion we know and I agree with too.
“However there will then be a long-term process of negotiations which could last 15 years.”
An EU report earlier this month declaring the country fit to start membership talks set off the current round of debate on Turkey’s future within Europe, four decades after the country first launched its membership drive.
Schroeder has emerged as the strongest supporter of Turkey’s bid within the bloc. But Chirac has bowed to domestic pressure to hold a referendum on Ankara’s accession and warned that Paris could veto membership talks at any time.
The 25 EU leaders are expected at the December summit to give Turkey their green light on starting accession talks but it is not yet clear when the negotiations could begin.
Turkey has said it wants the talks to begin in early 2005. But signals have begun to emerge that some EU members, including France, want the negotiations postponed at least into the second half of next year, fearing a negative impact on a planned referendum on the EU constitution.
Chirac said in Berlin he believed the talks could be launched “in 2005 or around 2005”.
Asked about the referendum, which has been fiercely criticised by Ankara, Chirac noted that it would only be held at the end of the negotiation process, in 10 or 15 years’ time.
“I am convinced that the problem will provoke much less passion at that time,” Chirac said.
During a meeting in Berlin with Claudia Roth, the leader of Germany’s Greens party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, Erdogan explained his objection to such a referendum with a soccer metaphor.
“The rules of the game are known and established. You cannot have new rules once the match has begun,” he was quoted by one of his advisors as saying.
Germany’s conservative opposition parties and a majority within Chirac’s centre-right Union for a Popular Movement party have attempted to rally support for a “privileged partnership” with Turkey instead of membership.
Schroeder said that such internal political disputes had no place at the Franco-German meeting.
“We agree and other speculation is only a disagreement within domestic politics which have no place in a press conference for an international summit,” he said.
The official reason for Erdogan’s invitation to join the Franco-German summit was for the signing of a USD 2.8 billion (EUR 2.22 billion) contract for Turkish Airlines to buy 36 Airbus passenger jets to renew the flag carrier’s aging fleet.
Subject: French News